“In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ But she said to her, ‘Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?’ Rachel said, ‘Then he may lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.'” Excerpt from Genesis 29:31—30:24
Have you ever noticed that what people really want is respect? The mandrake of respect. They can put up with poverty, but can’t live without respect. They can put up with not being recognized for their labor, but not live a minute without respect. When Rachel and Leah squabble about adultery, they are saying something more than they no longer like each other. One is saying to the other. Enough. “R E S P E C T, find out what it means to me,” as only Aretha Franklin can sing it.
Everybody has a breaking point. Your spouse can leave the towel on the floor 99 times and the 100th time you declare the most intimate of catastrophes. Your child can throw 15 tantrums on Wednesday only to be screamed at for the first one on Thursday. Everybody has a mandrake. The shrinks like to call these things triggers. Don’t you love gun metaphors?
War will stop if we learn how to give respect. Street crime will decrease if young men find someone who understands that they don’t really like school and that they need a little respect. And as St. Francis fully understood, you need to notice to be noticed, love to be loved – and respect to be respected. Respect is the avant-garde of issues, the early soldier on the field. It is not the rear guard of matters. Take my husband, but for God’s sake at least leave me a mandrake.
(mandrake: a Mediterranean plant of the nightshade family, with white or purple flowers and large yellow berries. It has a forked fleshy root that supposedly resembles the human form and was formerly widely used in medicine and magic, allegedly shrieking when pulled from the ground.)
Dear Lord, whatever happens between us and our friends and family, let it issue in respect, first given, and then received. We know you will take it from there, in and through Jesus. Amen.
Grace and Peace